Throughout the late 20th century and into the early 21st century the Ulster Volunteer Force or UVF was one of the largest British terrorist organisations on the island of Ireland. From its establishment in 1965 to its cessation of attacks in 2007 the grouping was responsible for thousands of acts of major and minor terrorism. Indeed the forty year war which blighted the north-east of Ireland under the euphemistic title of “the Troubles” began in 1966 with a series of gun and bomb attacks by the UVF that left several people dead, including a 74 year old grandmother and an 18 year old teenager.
Yet the organisation was intimately connected to the British military and paramilitary forces in Ireland, and beyond them the British government itself. Many members of the UVF were serving or former members of the British Army or of the Royal Ulster Constabulary, the notorious paramilitary police in the Occupied North of Ireland. They served as soldiers and policemen by day – and gunmen and bombers by night.
From the early 1970s onwards the British military and intelligence services organised, trained, armed and financed all the main British terrorist factions in Ireland including the UVF. However, despite the fact that they supposedly fought as part of Britain’s counter-insurgency war against Irish Republicanism the British terror gangs rarely targeted other combatants. Tellingly some 86% of the UVF’s victims were members of the civilian population: Irish men, women and children.
This was not counter-insurgency. This was state-terrorism.
So much so that by the late 1970s even the British no longer could tell the difference between their military, paramilitary and terrorist arms in Ireland. From the Irish human rights organisation, the Pat Finucane Centre, come’s this revelation about Margaret Thatcher’s knowledge of the war against the “Irish liars“:
“As Margaret Thatcher is laid to rest we thought it appropriate to publish two documents we found in the British National Archives. Both have been published before in the chapter we contributed on Loyalist [British terrorist] infiltration of the UDR.
The first document contains the minutes of a meeting between the then head of the Conservative opposition in 1975 (Margaret Thatcher) and the then Prime Minister, Harold Wilson, just weeks after the Miami Showband Massacre involving members of the UDR. At page 3 the following fascinating admission is made:
the Secretary of State said….
‘Unfortunately there were certain elements in the police who were very close to the UVF, and who were prepared to hand over information, for example, to Mr Paisley. The Army’s judgement was that the UDR was heavily infiltrated by extremist Protestants, and that in a crisis situation they could not be relied on to be loyal.’
Let no-one claim that the levels of collusion between the RUC, UDR and Loyalist paramilitaries was not known at the highest levels of the British Government and opposition.
The second document also concerns the UVF only by this stage, 1979, Thatcher is the Prime Minister. In a hand written note she urged mention of the‘Volunteer Ulster Defence Regiment (? Is that the name)’. Her officials clearly had difficulty reading her handwriting and the typed version of her comment reads.
(viii) The Prime Minister would also like to see some reference to the valiant work being carried by the Ulster Volunteer Force.
Apparently neither she not her officials were fully cognisant of the difference between the UDR, the largest regiment in the British Army, and the UVF, a Loyalist paramilitary group. On this point at least she found herself in agreement with the [Irish] Nationalist/ Republican community.”
- Margaret Thatcher And The Irish (ansionnachfionn.com)
- Mi5/mi6 Meet Uvf Just Weeks After Dublin-monaghan Bombings (seachranaidhe1.wordpress.com)
- Margaret Thatcher repeatedly told top British politician the Irish were ‘all liars’ (irishcentral.com)
- Margaret Thatcher’s Death is No Loss to the Greater Part of Humanity (irishleftreview.org)
- Why did Margaret Thatcher have a jaundiced view of the Irish? (newstatesman.com)
- Margaret Thatcher made the north of Ireland a more bitterly divided place (guardian.co.uk)
- Why I will shed no tears now for the late Mrs Margaret Thatcher – Her legacy on Ireland is one of failure and dead hunger strikers (irishcentral.com)
- Margaret Thatcher – She Came, She Saw, She Failed (seachranaidhe1.wordpress.com)
If all Irish are lairs (as she said to Mandelson) does that include Loyalists?
One wonders…? 😉
Are you sure about your dates? I recall the Troubles beginning in 1969, and the ‘Loyalist’ thugs were the B Specials. I don’t think there was a UVF until later. Remember also that the Brits initially came in to keep the two sides apart, under I think a Labour government. The think to remember is that the “Irish Question” is completely incomprehensible to anyone in the UK, governments included. They do what they do according to their own agendas. To please their own UK electorate. What puzzles me is why political change in Ireland has always involved so much violence, compared to other ‘colonised’ parts of the UK. This I think is a valid question, regardless of which side is being violent.
I’m afraid so. The resuscitated UVF came into being in late 1965 which was led by several ex-members of the British Armed Forces who had earlier been active with a local anti-Irish and anti-Catholic vigilante group founded in 1956 called the Ulster Protestant Association. From my post here:
To answer your question “What puzzles me is why political change in Ireland has always involved so much violence, compared to other ‘colonised’ parts…?”. Because no other parts were colonised with such violence.
The points raised here are of huge relevance. Has any of this been mentioned in the wider journalistic world yet?
BD, off course they know this. The facts are there, always have been, obviously.
But why ruin a good yarn!!